The sky was empty and the moon was full, shining beams of iridescent light onto the earth below. The rays struck the trees and set them dancing like quicksilver in the slight wind. The moonlight played upon the rolling fields with liquid brilliance, setting them ablaze with motion and subdued white fire, each blade of grass a little flame in the inferno. Other than the breeze and the chorus of the July crickets, the night was still and silent.
Then an explosion pierced the air and filled the night with screams.
Daisy had been asleep until that very moment. It was nothing like a restful sleep- she had been twitching back and forth all night to some subconscious tension which haunted her dreams. She attributed the restlessness to stress, and had no reason to suspect it was anything more; her husband Tom was sleeping fine.
Then the men came. They wore kerchiefs over their faces so that only their eyes were visible- gleaming with cold malice. They carried revolvers that whistled menacingly as they were waved through the air. They spoke no threats, no curses, nothing at all. They simply shattered the oaken door to the bedroom and poured through in an explosion of skittering fragments and tramping, spurred boots. The room was filled immediately with the heated odor of several bodies packed close together, accompanied by the subtle but sharp scent of human fear as Daisy and her husband were torn from the bed and locked in merciless arms.
Daisy cried out, hysteria coloring her voice, and scratched at her assailants, tearing their masks and bloodying their faces. Tom roared and tried to dislodge the men crammed around him, but there were so very many. Two or three men crashed backwards, but they were immediately replaced by others. The steel spine of a revolver whipped Tom across the jaw, spattering blood onto the wall, and he went limp. The assailants began to drag him from the room. Daisy renewed her fuss and kicked wildly into the air. A sharp slap dimmed her furor and momentarily stole her vision. She felt herself being lifted up and into the air, and then her attacker threw her across the room. She struck the bedroom window- an array of cracks shooting throughout the glass- then crumpled to the floor. She looked through wincing eyes to see the last of the assailants disappearing out the bedroom door holding one of Tom’s legs.
Fortunately, the cacophony had awoken the entire household; servants and masters alike found themselves in a rush of movement and noise as a mass of men poured through the old manor. Arming themselves, the residents pursued the assailants into the yard, where the men’s restless horses were tied to the fence.
Daisy struggled to her feet as the report of gunshots raged outside. A stray bullet whistled through the window, missing Daisy by inches. The already compromised pane collapsed on itself, loosing fragments of glass onto the wood floor with a sound like a thousand little icicles breaking at once. Daisy hurried out of the room, past the frightened people in the long, broad hallway, down the splintered mahogany staircase and out the bullet-riddled double doors of the manor.
When she saw the scene before her, she thought she was back in the war. A mess of turfed, bloodstained loam and writhing bodies covered the yard. The assailants lay dead or dying, their horses scattered around the yard or prancing fearfully in the distance. The manor’s residents appeared hammered, but not beaten, and one of them made his way to Daisy.
“Where’s Tom?” She demanded, her emotion making her drawl even thicker.
“He’s gone, miss.” The burly man replied. “We- I- it’s….” He started over. “One of those bandits, we missed ‘im. He had Tom.”
Daisy felt her knees weaken, but at the same time, she was elated that at least Tom was still alive; that was more than she had hoped upon seeing the carnage outside. All the same, she knew a posse would take ages to start the search for him.
Steeling herself, she snatched the man’s revolver from his grasp, darted to the nearest horse, leaped onto it, and drove her heels into its ribs. The animal rushed forward, leaped over the fence, and galloped down the road. The residents behind her called out, but she was gone. Daisy well knew her foolishness, but she wasn’t about to sit and weep when Tom was at the mercy of a kidnapper. Whatever the men’s reasons for taking him, Daisy was going to get him back.